The writer, Elizabeth Taylor

July 7, 2012 at 2:24 PM | Posted in Books, Writers | 1 Comment
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I am finally reading the English novelist Elizabeth Taylor and am delighted to discover another author that  I know I will read complete. I had not heard of her before 1994 when I went in search of works by Peter Taylor. He is one of my greatest finds and Elizabeth shared shelf space in the libraries I haunted. I remember picking her up, so to speak, and thinking that she was just what I didn’t want to read – yet another lady novelist, long forgotten, like so many that choke library shelves. Happy to be so wrong!

I’ve just read her novel from 1961, In a Summer Season, and I can tell you why she is a wonderful writer: she puts you into all the characters, not just one or two. In addition, she does not take it easy on her heroine who loses  lustre, like taking off make-up, but slowly.

Mediocre writers take short-cuts, Elizabeth Taylor, apparently, does not.

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  1. I gulped this down on the train between Birmingham and Reading; yes, I did read every word, but I have read this before, although I’m not sure when. Mrs Palfrey, a fine and formidable woman who can look like a general in drag, is installing herself at a residential hotel as the novel opens. She observes the other inmates: pain-wracked Mrs Arbuthnot, brave Mrs Burton, fighting age until the end (and at the Day we were alerted to the fact that she shares a surname with the person who to us, surely, is the “other” Elizabeth Taylor), and the others. Mrs Palfrey hopes for a visit from her grandson but when she meets a rather Iris Murdochian young impoverished writer (with yet another feckless mother), she brings him into her life – and into some degree of deception. Horrors, of course, ensue. A cast of brilliantly drawn characters seen in various environments including a scream of a party, each with their horrors and their redeeming features. Although the subject matter is depressing, the book isn’t, in an odd way that is testament to the power of the author.

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